Indian Chai- From roadside to tea lounges

Indian Chai


A Tale of Traditional Indian Chai

Indian Chai has been brewing perfect moments for bonding for all of us for ages. Either be it spending some time with your partner or catching up with old friends or maybe some professional discussion with colleagues. But in the age of social media, when chit-chatting has taken a digital cover, tea conversations were almost in danger of fading away into oblivion.

But then, you know what a cup of Indian tea can do. To give people their sweet little tea-chats back, the roadside brew has entered the upscale, eclectic, and funky indoors in the form of tea cafes and lounges. Our 'Indian Chai’ has found a cosy niche for itself in upmarket chai outlets, boutiques, and lounges

Most of these boutiques run full-house through-out the day. While their main clientele is youngsters, there is no dearth of business meetings and corporate bulk bookings. Though Indian Chai has been India’s favourite drink since eternity, what these tea lounges have done is to bring different varieties of it to the forefront.

With your regular ginger, cardamom, masala, paani Kum types right on the top of serving menus, these cafes also serve Darjeeling’s First Flush, Assam orthodox, Munnar Green, White Indian Chai, Nilgiri Oolong, Silver Needle for the connoisseurs. Some of them serve many varieties of Indian tea including some of the most exotic ones.

Interestingly, what makes these modern-day ‘Chai tapris’ special is their rootedness in old ways and traditions. They might have high-end, Wi-Fi enabled, air-conditioned interiors for hip youngsters but they still offer Indian Chai in clay pots better known as ‘Kulhars’ and cutting glasses along with quirky cutlery. They may offer cupcakes and pies but their sell-outs are always undoubtedly those samosas and bun-maskas.

Winters & Tea: An Eternal Love Affair

Many people across the globe like to wake up to a freshly brewed hot cup of tea. This ritual becomes all the more vital on cold winter mornings when tea becomes a source of warmth and comfort to beat the chill, especially in India where the majority cannot imagine a winter morning without a cup of #MyChai.

So what makes this relationship between tea and winters eternal? There's something more than just the hot brew

 

Healthy & hearty mornings!

Tea is a great way to add to your healthy lifestyle. In winters, when your body is vulnerable to flu and cold, this wonderful brew provides the much-needed warmth

A drink full of warmth, love & energy

Snuggled in a blanket when it often becomes hard to step out of bed, your steaming cup of tea can prove to be an effective stimulant to charge you up for the day ahead. A morning brew gets you started whereas a late afternoon cup can give you a dash of energy and mental alertness to continue for a few more hours

Adding different flavors from your kitchen like some ginger or a few cardamoms can make a regular cup of tea really special. Traditionally, ginger has been used to support overall digestive health. Indeed, the aroma of tea helps in looking forward to the day

Spice it up and see the magic

Add a dash of spice to your cup of tea and it can be helpful to you. Try black tea with peppermint or lemongrass to experience one of its most flavorsome and effective forms.. Try Jaggery Tea and you will be surprised by its wonderful taste.

So, the winters are here and so is the tea. What are we waiting for?


Pour a rainbow from a teapot—

drink of happiness and love

warmth, calmness, and peace

breathe in the curling steam of dreams.

~Terri Guillemets

Hot brew

Making the Most of a Tea Estate Visit

The Indian tea estates attract the lovers of tea and nature alike, and so, the opportunity to visit one, always promises to be memorable. There are thousands of tea estates employing millions of tea workers across the tea-producing regions in the country – Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Munnar, Sikkim, Kangra, Dooars Terai, and many more.

Here we are to help you out with a few tips to let you make the most of your visit to a tea estate:

  • Be prepared to ask questions
    The guides are usually from the estates and are happy to answer questions about the production process which is fascinating in itself. They also have a good knowledge to share about the rich and varied history of the estates. So be prepared with your queries.
  • Ensure accessibility
    Most estates are located away from urban centers, making accessibility a concern. Travel by road and rail should be planned well in advance. Once you are in the estates, you may attempt walking for few kilometers for a feel of adventure.
  • Be sure to time the visit carefully
    If you’re looking to take home photographs of the tea-pluckers at work, remember that there are several breaks during the day as well as the year. So visits during breaks, holidays, and dormant season should be avoided.

Tea & Spice it up with Arabian nights

Angshuman Paul, Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company

It’s interesting to see how ethnic practices gradually bring in new vistas for contemporary organizers while they are hosting various functions. For the month of February this year, I have indulged intensively in such ethnic oeuvres and would be obliged to share them with you at a glance. Let me take you to Dubai where my host welcomed me with an intensive Moroccan Black tea. Tea in the UAE has been re-contextualized in the traditional Arabic way, so although my host Ishan Ray Choudhury (an avid Moroccan tea drinker who’s also nostalgic about Darjeeling tea) introduced me to this Moroccan tea, my quest was to be part of the organized traditional Arabic tea and spice tours. Before I mention more about these Arabian delicacies and their Indian connection, it will be nice to provide a platform that relates Moroccan tea with India. Moroccan tea unlike Indian black tea is sweeter (no need to add additional sugar).

Bucked up with this mission, I traveled to the Arabian desert on a tour that instills in the traveler a deep appreciation for Bedouin culture. Chaiwallahs have a beautiful bonding in Bedouin cuisine, which commences with the ceremonial pouring of tea or coffee from Dallas (traditional Arabian-pots) and when I said I belong from Darjeeling, a few of them enquired about Darjeeling tea. Indian tea has a fervent flavor, which was not present in Arabian tea, as Arabian tea is garnished with excessive boiling, making the flavor bit bitter. But you could harmonize it with Indian tea as lots of Indian brands are being exported to Dubai (I found that Tata Tea has a maximum retail presence).

It is as if the chai patterns hint at personal geographies, as they spread out, mapping unchartered courses. For instance, the same withered CTC or Orthodox tea from India has adopted its own pattern in Bedouin cuisine. But this article would not be complete if we don’t talk about Arabic cuisine. Arabic Bedouin dishes are dominated by red-chilli & turmeric spices, which are imported from foreign lands (read India & Pakistan). Chili Pepper Spice, Cayenne Pepper Spice, and Black Pepper Spice are three spices, among the long list of spices that are appreciated among the Arabs as heat-adders. And when it comes to the culinary bonding between Indians and Bedouins, both of them use Chili Pepper Spice. Whether it be in an Indian spice blend (like Curry Powder hot & Cayenne Pepper Spice) or in an Indian dish itself (like Tandoori Chicken), Indian cooking is revered by any heat lover.

But if reading so much on extreme hot spices is creating a phobia in you with respect to Arabian cuisine, then let me tell you that Arabians in fact go gentle while using them in camel meat, Arabian fish curry, and Shawarmas. Although Shawarma is a Lebanese dish, there are a number of Shawarma shops in Dubai & Saudi Arabia, and my experience in a few of these shops indicates that red chilies from India are ground before being used to marinate the meat for Shawarmas. These dishes are served with Moroccan Black tea and often in combo offers. It might be weird as we are used to combos of pizzas with carbonated drinks/juices but even Moroccan tea with a Lebanese dish is equally enjoyable.

Some quality ‘Temi’ tea time

Angshuman Paul , Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company

 

At the onset of this year, I was in Temi Tea Garden with my family (all of them are from the tea fraternity). I am a contemporary empiric when it comes to exploring the creative epicenter of any place that I visit, and that starts with the ethnic frame of that place. It was a freezing, foggy winter morning of January when we passed the Temi forest (located in South Sikkim) to reach the grand Temi Tea Garden. Our home for three days was the Cherry Resort, situated in the heart of the picture-perfect landscape of Temi tea garden, and the wafts of the cool, fresh Himalayan filled my lungs. My host welcomed us with the intensive Orthodox Black tea from Temi, and now it’s time to harmonize with ethnic history. Sikkim was merged with the Indian Union in the way back in 1960, and to accommodate Tibetan refugees from the nearby Tibetan Refugee camp in Rabongla, the Government of Sikkim identified the Temi forest to establish this tea estate.

 

With this mission in mind, the Sikkim Government started Temi Tea Garden with a group of Tibetan workers in 1968, and in 1974, they hired a British manager – Mr. Young – to manage the garden. From Mr. Young to Mr. Ravi Kumar (the present manager), Temi has been engaged in the production of Orthodox Black Tea from a garden that’s spread across an incredible 500 acres of land. On an evening cup of tea with Mr. Kumar, he shares his nostalgia with Temi tea and how tea manufacturing in Temi is more of an art than science. Unlike CTC (Curl, Tear, Crush) Tea from Bengal, Temi Orthodox tea starts its construction directly from withering and in our next day visit to the factory, my uncle (an expert in CTC tea manufacturing) points out the differences in the withering process of Temi tea as compared to CTC tea. For instance, the troughs for withering CTC tea are straight & parallel, but in Temi tea, the channels are slanting.

During my visit, I was happy to note the crucial role that women were playing in the tea manufacturing process. In Temi, I saw the packing is done in wooden tea boxes by a group of Mongolian (read Tibetan) women. In fact, during my visit to the garden, I noticed women laborers also managing the construction of the road that’s spread across the tea garden and separates the garden from the forest. Another strong distinguishing factor of the tea bushes over here is that they have a useful clonal character and are generated from Chinary seeds, which are ideal for the manufacturing of flavored teas. They have helpful tip content, and a touch of bloom is evident. This is not palpable in the Assamese species of seeds, where the branch spreads from well above the ground level, unlike the Chinary seeds, where the office covers just above the ground level.

Temi has three types of tea – Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP), Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (TGBOP), and Golden Orange Fanning (GOF). The first two comprise 75 percent of total production and are exported to countries like Germany, UK, and Japan.

My last day in Temi was a bit depressing as the weather was too cold, with no sun making the departing moment more emotional. But if you want to enjoy tea and cherries, then do visit the Temi garden during spring. I was told that Dalai Lama extended his stay in Temi as its beauty enamored him.